Asus MeMo 370T: The 7-Inch, Quad-Core, $250 Dream Tablet

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Jared Newman / TIME

Asus is promising what seems like the impossible with the MeMo 370T, a 7-inch Android Ice Cream Sandwich tablet with a quad-core processor for $250. I got my hands on a prototype during CES 2012, and I’m happy to say it’s real, and it could be spectacular.

Unlike so many other Android tablets, the Asus MeMo 370T doesn’t stammer on the home screen or stutter through web sites — it glides. And although I didn’t get to try any games on the tablet, performance should be similar to the MeMo’s bigger quad-core sibling, the Transformer Prime, which whizzes though 3D shooters and can output high-resolution games to a television screen through its micro-HDMI port.

(MORE: Check out Techland’s coverage of the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show)

The MeMo doesn’t cut a stunning figure like, say, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.7. It’s more akin to Amazon’s Kindle Fire in terms of thickness, but its back panel does have a gentle curve that makes the tablet easy to hold in one hand.

What I like about 7-inch tablets is that you can hold them like a paperback book, or cradle them in two hands for gaming in landscape mode, or thumb type like you would with a smartphone. The MeMo’s design should be fine for all those uses.

Other specs include up to 16 GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM and an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, but no front-facing camera. The display has a resolution of 1280-by-800 and uses a technology called in-plane switching to serve up wide viewing angles.

Android is still short on proper tablet apps, but that’s not as big of a deal with 7-inch tablets, which don’t have as much screen space to fill with blown up phone apps. And with Nvidia cultivating a library of meaty games optimized for its Tegra 3 quad-core processor, the MeMo should provide lots of entertainment for gamers.

Just one concern: Asus isn’t talking about battery life yet. Battery has been the downfall of some other 7-inch tablets, such as Toshiba’s 7-inch Thrive and the Acer Iconia Tab A100, so I’m just a little worried that this could be the Achilles heel for Asus as well. Hopefully Asus isn’t holding off on an estimate simply because it’s bad news.

I’ve waited a long time for a 7-inch tablet like the Asus MeMo 370T. Device makers who’ve tried to nail this screen size usually come up with underpowered or overpriced products. Or in the case of the Galaxy Tab 7.7, they make the mistake of tying them to wireless service plans that most people don’t want. Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet are exceptions, but their walled gardens make them poor choices for power users.

If Asus can deliver on its promise, it’ll have a sure winner for users who want lots of power in a small package. The MeMo 370T is set to launch in the second quarter of this year.

(MORE: Toshiba ‘Excite X10’ Claims Thinnest, Lightest 10-inch Tablet Crown)